The bizarre theft of a Salvador Dali painting from a New York City art gallery last year led to the arrest of a 29-year-old Greek man, according to authorities.
On Saturday, detectives with the New York Police Department arrested Phivos Istavrioglou, a publicist with the French-owned Moncler clothing company, in connection to the art heist. He was taken into custody as he exited an American Airlines flight from Milan, after being lured to the United States by undercover officers.
According to The Associated Press, Istavrioglou is accused of stealing the Salvador Dali painting, Cartel Des Don Juan Tenorio 1949, from the Madison Avenue art gallery Venus Over Manhattan in June 2012.
He allegedly entered the gallery during business hours, removed the painting from a wall, and placed it inside a shopping bag before slipping away unnoticed. He returned to his home in Athens, taking the painting with him.
In a strange twist, Istavrioglou allegedly removed the Dali painting from its frame, placed it into a cylinder tube, and mailed it back to the gallery the following week. Fingerprints on the package were analyzed and identified by detectives who tracked the man down.
The New York Post writes that undercover detectives were able to lure Istavrioglou back to New York. Posing as affiliates of an upscale art gallery, they extended the alleged thief a consulting opportunity, which he accepted.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance spoke about the case in a statement:
“It was almost surreal how this theft was committed — a thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dalí drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view of surveillance cameras. This brazen heist from a Manhattan gallery is the latest in a string of cases involving theft or fraud in the art world that my office has prosecuted. Today’s indictment brings us one step closer to bringing an international art caper to a close.”
Following his arrest in connection with the bizarre Dali painting theft, Istavrioglou pleaded not guilty to a charge of grand larceny.